Types, symptoms and diagnosis of mental illness

Mental health is a disorder of a person’s thinking, feeling, or behavior (or a combination of these), reflecting problems with mental function. They can cause pain or disability in social, work or family activities. Just as the term “physical illness” is used to describe a series of physical health problems, the term “mental illness” covers various mental health conditions.

What is mental illness?

The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as a health condition that involves “changes in mood, thinking, or behavior-or a combination of these changes.” If left untreated, mental illness can have a huge impact on daily life, including your ability to work, take care of your family, and your ability to communicate and interact with others. Similar to suffering from other diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, having a mental illness is not shameful, and support and treatment are available.


Mental illness is very common in the United States. Per year:of

  • One in five American adults has a mental illness
  • 1 in 25 U.S. adults has a serious mental illness
  • One in six U.S. adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17 suffer from mental illness

Severe Mental Illness (SMI) is a term used by health professionals to describe the most serious mental health conditions. These diseases can severely interfere with or restrict one or more major life activities. The two most common SMIs are bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.


Hundreds of mental illnesses are listed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association. DSM-5 classifies diseases according to their diagnostic criteria.of


This group of mental illnesses is characterized by obvious anxiety or fear, accompanied by physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, and dizziness.

The three main types of anxiety disorders are:

Bipolar disorder and related disorders

Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating episodes of mania, hypomania, and major depression.

Bipolar disorder is divided into three main categories:


The common feature of all depression is the presence of sad, empty, or irritable emotions, accompanied by physical symptoms and cognitive changes that significantly affect a person’s functional ability.

Examples include major depression and premenstrual dysphoria (PMDD).

Destructiveness, impulse control, and behavioral disorders

A group of mental illnesses involving emotional and behavioral self-control problems.

Diseases in this group include:

Dissociation disorder

This group of psychiatric syndromes is characterized by an unconscious disconnect between consciousness, memory, emotion, perception, and behavior—even one’s own identity or self-awareness.

Remove obstacles

Children with bowel disorders will repeatedly urinate or defecate at inappropriate times and in inappropriate places, regardless of whether this behavior is involuntary or involuntary.

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Eating disorder

Eating disorders are characterized by persistent disordered eating patterns, leading to poor physical and mental health.

The three main eating disorders include:

Gender dysphoria

Formerly known as gender identity disorder, when a person feels extreme discomfort or pain, gender dysphoria occurs because their gender identity is inconsistent with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Neurocognitive impairment

These disorders are characterized by a decline in a person’s previous level of cognitive function. In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, other conditions in this category include:

  • Huntington’s disease
  • Neurocognitive problems caused by HIV infection
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Neurodevelopmental disorders

These disorders usually manifest in the early stages of development, usually before the child enters elementary school. They are characterized by impaired personal, social, academic or professional functions.

Examples of neurodevelopmental disorders include:

  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Learning and intellectual disability

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and related diseases

As the name suggests, these diseases are characterized by obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors.

Examples of obsessive-compulsive disorder and related diseases include:


Describes an intense or sustained sexual interest that causes pain or damage. These may involve recurring fantasies, impulses, or behaviors involving atypical sexual interests.

Personality disorder

These disorders are characterized by persistent and rigid experiences and behavior patterns that can cause pain or damage. There are currently 10 recognized personality disorders.

Schizophrenia spectrum and other mental disorders

These diseases are defined as abnormalities in one or more of the following areas:

Sexual dysfunction

This group of heterogeneous disorders is characterized by a person’s inability to fully participate or experience sexual pleasure.

Some of the most common sexual dysfunctions include:

Sleep-wake disorder

There are several different types of sleep-wake disorders, and all involve the problem of falling asleep or staying awake at a desired or socially appropriate time.

These diseases are characterized by the imbalance between the circadian rhythm and the surrounding environment or the abnormality of the circadian rhythm system itself. Common sleep-wake disorders include insomnia and narcolepsy.

Physical symptoms and related diseases

People with these diseases experience extreme and exaggerated anxiety about physical symptoms (such as pain, weakness, or shortness of breath). This concentration is so strong that it disrupts people’s daily lives.

Substance-related and addictive disorders

All substance-related disorders are characterized by a series of behavioral and physical symptoms, including withdrawal, tolerance, and cravings. The use of 10 different classes of drugs may cause substance-related diseases.

Trauma and stress related diseases

This group includes diseases related to exposure to trauma or stressful events. The most common is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Signs and symptoms

Everyone’s mental health experiences peaks and troughs. Stressful experiences, such as losing a loved one, may temporarily weaken your mental health. Generally speaking, in order to meet the criteria for mental illness, your symptoms must cause severe pain or interfere with your social, professional, or educational functions, and last for a period of time.

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Each disease has its own set of symptoms, the severity of which can vary greatly, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents may include:

  • Excessive fear or anxiety: feeling scared, anxious, nervous, or panicked
  • Emotional changes: deep sadness, inability to express joy, indifferent to the situation, feeling hopeless, laughing for no reason at inappropriate times, or suicidal thoughts
  • Thinking problems: memory, thought, or speech problems that are unable to concentrate or are difficult to explain
  • Changes in sleep or appetite: sleep and diet are significantly more or less than usual; significant and rapid weight gain or loss
  • Withdrawal: sitting idle for a long time or withdrawing from previously liked activities

It is important to note that the presence of just one or two of these signs does not mean that you have a mental illness. But it does indicate that you may need further evaluation.

If you have several of these symptoms at the same time, and these symptoms prevent you from living a normal life, you should contact your doctor or mental health professional.


There is no single cause of mental illness. On the contrary, people think they are derived from a wide range of factors (sometimes a combination). Here are some factors that may affect whether someone has a mental illness:

  • Biology: Brain chemistry plays an important role in mental illness. Changes and imbalances in neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) are usually related to mental disorders.
  • Environmental exposure: Children exposed to certain substances in the womb have a higher risk of mental illness. For example, if your mother drinks alcohol, takes drugs, or is exposed to harmful chemicals or toxins during pregnancy, your risk may increase.
  • Genetics: Experts have long recognized that many mental illnesses are often inherited in families, which indicates that there are genetic factors. For example, people whose relatives have mental illnesses (such as autism, bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia) may be at higher risk of mental illness.
  • Life experience: The stressful life events you have experienced may lead to the development of mental illness. For example, long-lasting traumatic events may lead to conditions similar to PTSD, and repeated changes in the primary caregiver during childhood may affect the development of attachment disorders.


The diagnosis of mental illness is a multi-step process that may involve multiple health care providers, usually starting with your primary care doctor.

Physical examination

Before making a diagnosis, you may need to undergo a physical examination to rule out a physical condition. Some mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, may have physical causes. Due to overlapping or similar symptoms, thyroid problems and other physical diseases can sometimes be misdiagnosed as mental health disorders; this is why a thorough physical examination is essential.

Your doctor will record a long medical history and may request laboratory tests to rule out physical problems that may cause your symptoms. If your doctor does not find the physical cause of your symptoms, you may be referred to a mental health professional so that you can be evaluated for mental illness.

Psychological assessment

A mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, will ask you a series of questions related to your symptoms and family history. They may even ask a member of your family to participate in an interview so they can describe the symptoms they see.

Sometimes a mental health professional will perform tests and other psychological assessment tools to determine your exact diagnosis or to help determine the severity of your illness. Most psychiatrists and psychologists use APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose mental health disorders.

This brochure contains descriptions and symptoms of all different mental illnesses. It also lists some criteria, such as which symptoms must be present, how many symptoms there are, and how long it lasts (and what should not happen) to meet the conditions for a particular diagnosis. This is called the diagnostic criteria.

It is not uncommon to be diagnosed with more than one mental illness. Certain conditions increase the risk of other diseases. For example, sometimes anxiety disorders can develop into depression.


Most mental illnesses are not considered “curable”, but they are definitely treatable. The treatment of mental health disorders varies based on your personal diagnosis and the severity of symptoms, and the results may vary from individual to individual.

Some mental illnesses respond well to medications. Other conditions respond best to talk therapy. Some studies also support the use of complementary and alternative therapies in certain situations. Usually, the treatment plan will include a combination of treatment options, and it takes trial and error to find the best option for you.

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Having a mental illness, whether it affects you or your loved one, can be very difficult-but it can help. If you suspect that you or your loved one may have a mental illness, please consult your doctor, who may refer you to a mental health professional for further evaluation, evaluation and treatment. You can also contact a psychotherapist directly.